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There is a correlation between heavy marijuana use in teens and poor working memory.

There is a correlation between heavy marijuana use in teens and poor working memory.

There is a stereotype that marijuana users have poor memory.  They tend to forget details of what was said, their work schedules, etc.  Lately researchers have been putting that to the test.  Researchers from Feinberg School of Medicine (part of Northwestern University in Chicago) have found that there is a very strong link between poor working memory and consistent marijuana use in adolescents.


The study looked at nearly 100 adolescents.  The results showed that non-marijuana users had an average of 37 times the capacity for working memory than daily marijuana users.  What’s even more shocking is that the study counted someone as a marijuana user if they began using between 16 and 17 years old, and used for 3 years consecutively after that, even if they were no longer using; there were some participants in the study who had been sober for a few years, and their memory was still diminished.


The study also looked to see if there was a correlation between marijuana use and a change in brain structure.  They found that parts of the brain associated with memory were diminished in size in comparison to their non-using counterparts.


So, next time your teenager wants to argue with you that marijuana isn’t bad for them, and may even be good for them, you’ll know.  On top of that, other studies have shown that marijuana is addictive, both physically and psychologically.  A lot of people who use it continue to function at some level, which is part of the reason heavy marijuana users are hesitant to admit there are problems with the drug.  However, they are not functioning as well as they could if they were sober.


After doing counseling with numerous teen cannabis users over the years, I can speak from what I have witnessed.  Many of the teenagers who were heavy users and then became sober made marked improvements in multiple areas of their life a few months after they quit.  It wasn’t immediate.  After several weeks though their familial relationships greatly improved, motivation increased, activity level with friends increased, exercise increased, and overall sense of well-being increased.  Eventually most of them even ended up saying they were glad to have stopped using.


Here is a link to the article I referenced in this blog post:


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT